E. M. Williams

Chaos Calling climbing the rankings on Amazon Canada's hot new releases list

Chaos Called: WOW, Did You Ever Answer!

Cover to Chaos Calling ebook shows a crest of a golden orange creature against the Toronto skyline at night. In the center, three eyes that double as scales are shaded blue, red and purple in their centres. 

Text:
E. M. Williams 
Chaos Calling 
The Xenthian Cycle
Book 1
Still in love.

Pre-Launch Campaign: Week 1

Chaos Calling: Book 1 of the Xenthian Cycle has been live on Amazon for just over a week. Like any self-published author, I hoped you would be excited to see the book’s cover and title. I also hoped some of you would pre-order a copy. 

I had zero expectations for what actually happened. 

Last November, I picked May 31, 2022 as my launch date. Book people launch things on Tuesdays, I’m told. My plan was to announce the book’s existence and drop the cover six weeks ahead of time on April 19. 

Thanks to my background in marketing for the tech sector, I’ve run public and private launch campaigns before. Four weeks can be too short a window to establish a new idea and get traction. Nine is waaaaay too long. Six seemed like the ideal middle ground. 

I uploaded the files a few days early since Amazon’s site advises that you may need up to 72 hours for it to clear their backend. Everything loaded without issue. 

Find Chaos Calling by Amazon market: 
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Please note all editions are currently in English and translations are out of scope.

Tuesday, April 19: Pre-Launch Campaign Day 1

I scheduled the cover drop/title reveal email to go to my subscriber list at lunchtime EST. Since I ran a split test for the subject line, it didn’t fully deploy until 2 pm. My supporters are a small but mighty group, and they responded. My open rate was 81 percent (thank you, awesome email subscribers—I adore each and every one of you).

I was busy with work until late Tuesday afternoon when I paused to tell my peeps in the GrowClass Slack channel about the soft launch. They’ve followed my writing journey for some time and, since they’re all growth marketers, love hearing about campaign work as it evolves. Earlier this year, I presented my book launch plan to the Mastermind Jam group and got some excellent feedback (so grateful!). They gave me confidence that I was in a good place because they’re amazing, but also seasoned pros. 

While I gathered up my materials to post the news, I checked the Amazon Canada listing. And then I did a double take.  

A screen shot showing Contemporary  Fantasy bestsellers on Amazon Canada. The Atlas Six is in position #33. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them is in position #42. Chaos Calling is in the bottom right in position #44.
On Tuesday evening, Chaos Calling ranked #44 in Contemporary Fantasy,
right behind
The Atlas Six and Fantastic Beasts on Amazon Canada.

Seeing the book ranking in Amazon’s Contemporary Fantasy (ebook/books) and Urban Fantasy categories was deeply satisfying. A lot of self-publishing sites emphasize the importance of choosing your category wisely. I think of The Xenthian Cycle as Fantasy Action, but there’s no subcategory for that (hold my proverbial beer). So, I spent a long time researching novels by my intended peers and debating where to list the book. 

The payoff to that strategy felt AMAZING. 

By the end of the night, Chaos Calling was on Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” list. I was floored, especially since that books also listed are by authors I’ve admired for years. 

Screen shot of Amazon Canada's "Hot New Releases" page with book covers arranged in a grid. Margaret Atwood's short story "A Good Mother" is in position #1, Olivie Blake's The Atlas Six in #4, Holly Black's The Book of Night in #5 and Chaos Calling in position #7.
Margaret Atwood is a fantasy titan, Holly Black is a genre stalwart and Olivie Blake is goals for anyone self-publishing fantasy. By any measure, this was an extraordinary result.

I went to bed with a smile on my face. 

Wednesday, April 20: Day 2

Wednesday morning, I woke up to this text from a friend:

A phone screen shot of Amazon Canada's Hot New Releases section time stamped 6:18 am showing book covers in a column. Margaret Atwood's "My Evil Mother" is in position #1. Chaos Calling is in position #3.
Like a 4.20 dream, only real.

And it kept going. 

By 5 pm on Wednesday, I’d cracked the Top 20 in my category for best sellers:

A wide desktop screen shot of Amazon Canada's Best Sellers in Contemporary Fantasy section showing book covers in a two-row, 10-column arrangement. Margaret Atwood's "My Evil Mother" is in position #1. Harry Potter novels sit at positions #2-#5, #6-#7, #13, and #18. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander sits at #6. N.K. Jemisin has positions #11-12. The Atlas Six is in position #19. Chaos Calling is in position #20.
My. God.

I mean, Margaret Atwood? N. K. Jeminsin? Diana Gabaldon? Naomi Novak? Harry freakin Potter? I’ve read all of these books, and enjoyed them. 

Also, mad respect to the self-published authors  whose work you also see in these lists—I look forward to discovering your stories for myself.

But there was Chaos Calling, sitting right beside The Atlas Six

And it kept climbing. 

A wide desktop screen shot of Amazon Canada's Best Sellers in Contemporary Fantasy section showing book covers in a two-row, six-column arrangement. Margaret Atwood's "My Evil Mother" is in position #1. Harry Potter novels sit at positions #2, #4, #5, #6, #8-10. N.K. Jemisin's The City We Became holds position #3. Chaos Calling is in position #7.
Here, Chaos Calling is ahead of 4/10 Harry Potters, including Azkaban. (Isn’t that the best one?)

And climbing.

A wide desktop screen shot of Amazon Canada's Hot New Releases in Contemporary Fantasy section showing book covers in a two-row, seven-column arrangement. Margaret Atwood's "My Evil Mother" is in position #1. Chaos Calling is in position #4, with Holly Black's The Book of Night at #6 and Naomi Novik's The Golden Enclaves at #10.
Hysterical laughter is the only reasonable response.

Later, my soul left my body for a couple of minutes when this happened: 

Tweet from my professional account that reads "You may find yourself sitting on a hot new releases list with Margaret Atwood. And you may ask yourself, "My God. What have I done?" 

Tweet image shows Screenshot of Amazon Canada's Hot New Releases list with Margaret Atwood's My Evil Mother side by side with Chaos Calling in positions #1 and #2 respectively. It's dated 4:12 pm, April 20, 2022.
Oh, high school self. What would you do if you knew?

At one point, I spotted Chaos Calling’s cover in the middle for the hot new releases widget (see below):

A wide desktop screen shot of Amazon Canada's Best Sellers in Contemporary Fantasy (books) showing book covers in a two-row, seven-column arrangement. Margaret Atwood's "My Evil Mother" is in position #1. Harry Potter novels sit at positions #2, #4, #5, #6,  #9, #10-11. N.K. Jemisin's The City We Became holds position #3. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander holds position #5 and Voyageur is #10. Chaos Calling is in position #7.
Amazon’s hype machine had discoverd Chaos Calling barely a week into pre-launch.

I won’t lie. On Wednesday night, I did a lot of shrieking. When you’re five days into living your dream with this kind of astounding feedback, there are no words, only sounds. 

Thursday, April 21: Day 3

If you’re curious (and I was), Amazon lists 60,000 books in contemporary fantasy.

On Thursday morning, this was still happening:

Screenshot of Amazon Canada's suggested products in Contemporary Fantasy books showing book covers or book sets in a two-row, eight-column layout. The Weirdness by Jeremy P. Bushnell is in position #1. The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake is in Position #3. Margaret Atwood's My Evil Mother is in position #4. Naomi Novak's A Deadly Education is in position #7. Harry Potter: The Complete Collection is in position 8. Chaos Calling is in position #11.
Staggering.

At its peak, Chaos Calling was:

  • #657 in all of Kindle for Amazon Canada
  • #7 Contemporary Fantasy Bestsellers (Kindle)
  • #8 Contemporary Fantasy Bestsellers (All Books)
  • #38 in Urban Fantasy Bestsellers
  • #2 in Hot New Releases, right behind Margaret Atwood’s short story, “My Evil Mother”

So, how many copies did you buy? 

I have no idea. I can’t tell if this result came from 10 sales, 100, or 1,000.

Talking with peers, I’ve learned the backend of Amazon’s sales analytics is somewhat murky. They undoubtedly have the data to tell me exactly what I want to know (how many copies by city per hour, please and thank you), but that would mean making their data transparent to their competitors. 

The kicker? Canadian sales data is rolled INTO the American numbers. Which means I can’t access historical Canadian sales data at all, where my biggest spikes came. 

Like, I know we’re a small market, but seriously? SERIOUSLY?? 

The data-driven marketer in me is real salty about that.

My best bet is apparently to wait 90 days for the royalties report, which is where the deductive reasoning kicks in. 

Beyond My Wildest Dreams

As I write this post, however, I’m conscious that in the grand scheme of things, sales operations do not matter. After seven and a half years of talking the ears off of my family, close friends and co-workers every chance I got, Chaos Calling is out there. Even in countries I’ve never visited, like Japan, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Germany, France, and India. 

And without a single public review to give you a sense of whether this thing I wrote is any good, you answered in spades. That trust is beautiful. 

I suspect that the gorgeous cover, designed by Wesley Lyn using conceptual illustrations by Helen He, is doing a lot of heavy lifting. Thank you, Wes and Helen, for your extraordinary work. I’m so grateful to collaborate with you. This is only the beginning!

To everyone who bought an ebook, told a friend, asked to get on the Chaos Calling paperback list, added Chaos Calling to an Amazon wish list or their GoodReads TBR, followed the completely unhinged rankings climb, sent me screenshots so I wouldn’t overlook things, or liked my social media posts — thank you, thank you, thank you! 

YOU ARE THE BEST. 

I also want to thank the grade school classmates, high school friends, current colleagues, and co-workers from jobs five or six boats back who reached out in support.  Your enthusiasm is both humbling and infectious. 

As a pair of my self-publishing peers and long-time mentors said over Slack Thursday morning:

“Wherever it goes from here—that thing happened and is not erasable—[for a few hours on Wednesday night] you were outselling Harry Potter on Amazon [Canada].”

It still takes my breath away.

Reluctant as I am to come back to Earth, I’m now working on the pre-order campaign’s second week, making ebook ARC copies, and getting that paperback edition ready to upload. 

Waving,

emw